Highland Council planners have recommended that the Fairways former golf course in Inverness should be no-go area for future development, prompting joy in local residents.
Slackbuie residents have fought over the past year to stop hundreds of houses being built on the green land which surrounds them.
Campaigners praised the planners for their decision, and said they had been ‘worried sick’ about losing their valued amenity.
Fairways was sold in July 2019 due to falling membership, and bought for a reputed £3 million by Fairways Inverness Ltd, whose directors include property developers David Cameron and David Sutherland.
Almost immediately Fairways and builders Kirkwood Homes applied for the land to be used for a development of around 800 houses.
Tulloch’s proposal for 1,275 houses in the neighbouring area of Welltown of Leys is also protected from development in the new Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan (IMLDP).
Council planners have been working on a new IMLDP, which will go out for public consultation for eight weeks at the start of next year.
Planner Craig Baxter said: “We recommend Fairways remains non-preferred for development, the key reasons for that are that it’s a strategic open and green space in the heart of the city and that combined with Welltown of Leys, proposed for 1275 houses by Tullochs, would represent a major new expansion area that would move away from the established strategy for growing the city.
“Welltown is less sustainable because of the topography, the slopes involved making it very difficult for active travel and the challenges of getting an effective public transport system in place.
“There are also a range of issues to do with character and setting of the city which could be adversely impacted if we were to allow large scale development in these sites.”
Keep Slackbuie Green campaigner Bill Mackenzie said he couldn’t be happier at the news.
“The planners presented indisputable, solid and common sense reasons for their decision.
“It makes an appeal pretty unlikely by the developers- they could appeal, but what’s the point?
“We’re full of praise for the fact that we can rely on the council and a planning department which has the right approach to keep green space protected, and use logical science before giving in to planning proposals that don’t actually make any sense.
“Everyone has been worried sick about it, and its one less thing to worry about at this stressful time.”
Mr Mackenzie said he would be happy for the owners to sell Fairways on to be restored as a golf course, perhaps with a boutique hotel.
“Inverness could support another golf course, and it would be something to add value to the city.”
Fellow campaigner Mike Newcomen was also delighted by the news.
“We were keen to preserve that area because it’s a natural beauty spot in Inverness that people have taken to their hearts during the pandemic.
“We see people walking dogs, families out using the space, so much so that trails have appeared going up to the course from Asda and all over the site.
“It’s easy walking distance from so many houses, everyone can benefit from it.”
Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie said it was the right outcome.
“This part of the city has been developed beyond what anyone thought and we are paying the price with crumbling roads and bursting schools.
“We absolutely need houses, but we also need a good quality of life.
“That means building communities by having good facilities, schools with space and open green space to enjoy.
“There is so much more land around Inverness which can be built on without taking away such an important green site.”
Fairways Inverness Ltd has been contacted for comment.